Register for The Directors Event on June 11 2021. Picture: 123RF/BAS121
Register for The Directors Event on June 11 2021. Picture: 123RF/BAS121

Just as the Covid-19 virus goes through waves of infections that bring greater challenges and demand swifter and stronger responses, business leaders also have to adapt their leadership styles and the behaviour of their companies to changing waves of operating as the world heads into the second year of living with a pandemic.

For business, the first wave was the immediate need to change to ensure survival, stability and continuity when the World Health Organisation first declared the pandemic. The second was settling into a new way of working. The third will be taking the lessons learnt during the crisis to ensure businesses are prepared to be resilient in 2021 and a post-Covid-19 future through the next phase of a transformational technology strategy.

“The leaders who have endured and guided their companies best during the first year of Covid, have been those who have been able to give priority to short-term and still manage long-term solutions,” says Jonas Bogoshi, BCX CEO.

“The speed at which the first wave arrived caught many unaware. It required clarity of thought and speedy, confident decision-making to stabilise critical infrastructure, as well as the systems and processes. New systems and tech were put in place almost overnight, and they did the first, vital job of keeping companies on course as much as possible.

“With the new variant, an increase of infections over the festive period, lockdowns still in place, and the world battling the second, more deadly wave of the virus, it became apparent that the digital transformation that took place in the first wave will be around for a while to come. Company leaders are having to deal with the technological and the human side of the realisation that those changes will stick in the long term.”

Continual investment in self-service, automation and artificial intelligence, aggressive migration to optimal cloud infrastructure to plan for multi-cloud approaches, reviews of cybersecurity systems, enhancing virtual collaboration, designing new business models through technology, integration of departments and roles — these will be an ongoing reality.

Having the resilience to reimagine the future of work — the workplace, the supply chain and ultimately the customer — requires full-throttle leadership; leadership that is able to continually adjust, while keeping a sense of business as usual, and think ahead to beyond the crisis.

“We have seen a shift in styles of leadership during the pandemic through necessity,” says Bogoshi. “In the beginning, good leaders realised they could not make every decision themselves because things were moving so fast and were so complex on so many levels. Leadership from the top down was just not agile, quick, or flexible enough to handle it all and so there has been a devolution of power.

“They needed data and feedback from their branch managers and employees on the ground to advise them on the changes that needed to be made, and what could be done. There was real-time data-sharing from smaller teams and pods of workers, that was then shared with management.”

Studies and reports on leadership have found leaders realise the need for more of a human touch with staff working from home, clear and effective communication, and transparency.

There is more of an awareness of putting their people first and focusing on mental wellbeing, and empathy in the quality of communications. This is the difference between pushing too hard or creating a sense of inclusion and working towards a purpose for the employee, the business and the leader. Above all, we should be aware that this is a human pandemic first and foremost.

So what can we expect in 2021 and beyond?

“Leaders who have remained calm, stayed the course by focusing on top priorities and haven’t panicked are the ones whose businesses are prepared to move into a new business-as-usual,” says Bogoshi.

“Knowing what to keep, change and put on hold is vital. It’s a combination of focusing on customers, investing in technologies to enhance and create a competitive gap on others, organising your business through a network of teams, and having an awareness of the effect of the pandemic on all levels of the business, that makes great leaders.”


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